Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier (spoiler review)

On its own, this can be read as a loose frame story. Several interconnected, short story-like blurbs take turns in the foreground until the mysterious occasion for the FBI investigation begins to take shape. Each vignette is relayed by Tamara Preston, a fictional FBI field agent, belonging to the Blue Rose task force from Twin Peaks lore.

Then again, if you have any familiarity with Twin Peaks at all, it’s hard not to think of this book as a puzzle piece belonging with both T.V. runs and Fire Walk With Me. Especially since this is a story that David Lynch has treated protectively at times. To hear him tell it in every interview with him I’ve ever seen or read, Lynch is a visual artist first. He was a painter before a filmmaker, after all. At times, he considers story a rich ingredient in an overall work of art- but not necessarily the point on it’s own.

And when story does reach a critical level, he perceives opportunities within tangents that may be more rewarding than whatever the apparent McGuffin might be. To great effect, in my opinion: Mulholland Drive, Fire Walk With Me, Eraserhead and Lost Highway are some of my favorite movies. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Lynch cares more about mental and emotional continuity than a literal cause-and-effect unfolding of events.

During the first season of Twin Peaks, both David Lynch and Mark Frost (author of The Final Dossier and most Twin Peaks screenplays) were committed to this flexibility. Both Frost and Lynch agreed that the identity of Laura Palmer’s murderer might not even be revealed, if the right stories were generated in the process. When the studio required that the murder be solved in the second season, Lynch appeared to be so dismayed as to nearly loose interest in Twin Peaks.

As much of a blow as this was, though, Lynch still had not let go of his attachment. In the mid 2000’s, a DVD re-release of the series was planned to include a comic written by a third party that would pick up where the mysterious ending of the second season left off. Lynch would not allow it to be released.

For someone who believes that numerous and diverse interpretations are proof of success…this seems like a relatively protective attitude. Especially after the studio meddling nearly killed his interest in Twin Peaks in the early nineties.

Mark Frost was half of the creative force behind the original story, which may be why he has been allowed to create a canonical Twin Peaks novel. I’m aware of some other Twin Peaks prose fiction and audio books released in the early nineties, but this book was released almost simultaneously with the 2017 Return series which strikes me as significant. In fact, the multiple links that the Final Dossier has to The Return strongly suggest that this book may be a companion piece to the 2017 continuation.

The Final Dossier bridges some very specific gaps between the early nineties Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks: The Return and Fire Walk With Me, such as the parentage of Audrey’s son and the role of Philip Jeffries.

The portrayals of Lawrence Jacoby and Ben Horne surprised me with how sympathetic they were. During the first two T.V. seasons, I was absolutely disgusted with Jacoby. The overal tone of the show seemed to insinuate that regularly crossing sexual boundaries with young female patients was just more quirkiness. No worse than the jokes about Deputy Brennan tossing cups of sperm across the lobby of the sheriff’s office.

Both Jacoby and Ben Horne have redemption arcs that are pretty easy to believe. For a story about the virtues and vices of small towns, keeping things realistic and simple go a long way (especially if there are things that are complex and otherworldly elsewhere in the story). In the case of both characters, personal revelation is only half the battle. A penitent must also live with the uncertainty that the world (and those you have wronged) has no obligation to acknowledge growth or repentance.

Ben has a pretty dismal experience with this. He basically agrees to an amicable separation from his wife, who wants no reconciliation. His son, Johnny, is dependent on her so Ben is effectively cut off from his son in the bargain. After what she has had to tolerate in her marriage, though, Ben seems to have accepted that fair is fair. Similarly, Audrey Horne, his daughter, wants absolutely nothing to do with him for every good reason a viewer of the show can think of. While making what reparations he can in his professional life has no hope of repairing any relationship, that seems to be beside the point for Ben.

Jacoby…basically loses his license for having no grasp on doctor-patient confidentiality and plying patients for sex on the reg. Pretty much what I was hoping would happen during all of the first two seasons. He then begins a tour under a Nordic New Age Guru, dabbles in being a psychonaut and does some progressive politics boosting. After this sabbatical, he returns to the town of Twin Peaks due to a friendship in the Horne family and stays for his own reasons.

He reinvents himself as Doctor Amp, a broadly anti-establishment podcaster, which has an unexpectedly therapeutic impact on Nadine Hurley. In The Final Dossier, this comes across as similar to Ben’s late stage withdrawal from white collar crime: Jacoby maintains an open forum where he could, potentially, do some good but obviously will never practice medicine again.

If The Final Dossier was the last word on the subject, this would be a perfectly acceptable way to wrap up his character arc. But Twin Peaks: The Return portrays his Doctor Amp persona as a little less benign and more rambling and explosive. When The Return first aired, I wondered if Jacoby’s alter-ego was perhaps modeled after someone like Alex Jones. I’m not saying there was anything narratively wrong with that, but there is a tone conflict between the two versions of podcaster Jacoby.

Agent Preston’s investigation has a wide scope but there are repeating patterns between the vignettes that make the focus of the story clear.

To the book’s credit, Tamara Preston’s character development is one of the things that makes The Final Dossier a little bit more than a companion to The Return. While this is easy to miss in the beginning, by the end of the book it’s obvious that Preston has been in the town of Twin Peaks for awhile. Picking up exactly where The Return left off, Tamara is doing a follow up investigation of the mysterious shootout in the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s office in 2017.

Tamara has a “writer’s presence” that places her very close to the foreground. Between the multiple reports on people and events, though, some names come up more often than others. Special Agent Dale Cooper, in particular, could be reasonably interpreted as a secondary protagonist to Tamara’s primary protagonist.

Tamara passively observes that Dale has a white knight complex, during her report on Windom Earle’s crime spree. She theorizes that his mentally troubled mother may have parentified him as a child and engendered a reflexive urge to protect vulnerable women. Later in life, when Cooper falls in love with Caroline Earle during Windom’s downward spiral, a psychological lure is planted.

This draws Cooper in and leaves him vulnerable when Windom shows up in Twin Peaks. This is the same occasion that creates Cooper’s double, while the man himself is outside of time and space for (what we experience as) twenty five years in the Black Lodge.

Tamara goes on to infer (like many Twin Peaks fans) that the seemingly random time differential between entering and exiting the Black Lodge is a consequence of its location outside of time and space. This would be consistent with the eventual fate of Philip Jefferies who, when he materializes in Fire Walk With Me, is disoriented and demanding to know what year it is. This is also covered in The Final Dossier, as is Jeffries shock at seeing Dale Cooper. He points at Cooper drunkenly and asks Cole “Who do you think that is, there?”

If Jeffries is on guard against someone who looks like Cooper…and Cooper himself has a malevolent doppelgänger known to travel across time and space…it’s not difficult to run into the possibility that Cooper’s double and Jeffries somehow crossed paths on the other side.

Tamara’s final analysis accepts two things as likely. First: there are multiple doorways to the region outside of the space-time continuum and the time differential between here and there is nearly random. Second: something happened between Dale’s “evil twin” and Jeffries somewhere on the other side.

What exactly that is is not obvious. Clearly stating that this meeting happened at all would have been more welcome within The Return. This book also states the link between the New Mexico nuclear weapon experiments, Sarah Palmer and The Dutchman’s Lodge more openly than The Return. Again, which The Return should have done to begin with. In all fairness, it’s not like you couldn’t piece it together on your own, but probably only with the help of secondary sources that are less likely to be available these days. A bare minimum requirement would be knowing Sarah Palmer’s age and the state in which she spent her childhood. To make matters more confusing, she only lived in New Mexico as a child but was born in Bellevue, Washington- I remember that last part causing a lot of fans on YouTube to dismiss the possibility that the little girl at the end of the “crispy ghosts” episode was Sarah Palmer. Just now, I only know she was close enough to the nuclear weapon tests as a kid because I read it in a book by Mark Frost from 2017. A lot of secondary sources available to fans only stated where she was born, not the rest of her life leading up to marrying Leland and giving birth to Laura.

Which leads us back to whether or not The Final Dossier is an addendum to the T.V. show. Obviously, you’ll get more out of it if you were a Twin Peaks fan beforehand. Whether or not this is a problem depends on your opinion of multimedia storytelling or world building. In the case of Kingdom Hearts, the fanbase seemed to call bullshit with a single voice, causing Square to re-release the handheld KH games numerous times on multiple platforms just to make sure everyone was on the same page before they went ahead and released KH3.

A case could be made that the success or failure of multimedia storytelling depends on the specific story. Both Twin Peaks fans and David Lynch fans in general love hunting down rare minutia, so maybe a book that is equally necessary, side by side with the movie and two T.V. shows, is admissible here. Multimedia storytelling also depends heavily on whether or not the individual pieces are complete on their own in spite of their links to each other. The fictional universe of Stephen King, for example, is expressed largely through individual, standalone stories, with the exception of the Dark Tower novels. When I first discovered Stephen King message boards as a teenager, a lot of us seemed to be interested in the bigger multiverse threads because we were hooked by a specific part, like It, The Stand or The Dark Tower.

I bring all this up after mentioning the Sarah-Nuke-Dutchman-Jeffries-Double link because the episode that deals with it most directly feels like brief exit from the overall continuity.

This, of course, is the episode with the crispy ghosts. Most of the episode has no dialogue and there is no obvious sequential link with anything else in the story up until that point. There is surreal imagery associated with both BOB and Laura that makes it look like some kind of Lord of The Rings / Final Fantasy battle between good and evil was turned loose by the 1943 Los Alamos nuke experiments. And that this spiritual battle is waged, somehow, by Laura and BOB.

Twin Peaks, at this point, has been through a few radical genre shifts already: first stage was noir balanced with slice-of-life Americana. The second was a little closer to something like The X-Files with supernatural activity taking up more of the foreground. Fire Walk With Me, my favorite part of the Twin Peaks story, brings the subject into more psychological and spiritual territory. This, for me, put the emotional center of Twin Peaks (Laura Palmer herself) in the foreground where she belongs. By linking the metaphysical imagery from the show thus far directly to Laura’s psyche, Fire Walk With Me becomes (for me) the most compelling part of Twin Peaks.

Then…the episode with the crispy ghosts brings the story into something like high fantasy.

This can only be reconciled with the rest of the story by Laura inheriting something from her mother, Sarah, who in turn may have been exposed by the crispy ghosts who emerged after the nuclear blast. A story link from that distance would even go with the broader range of locations used in The Return. It bounces between Twin Peaks, the Dakotas, Las Vegas and New York City. A brief digression to the 40’s would fit within that spectrum of variance as well, so long as the link to the rest of the story was clear.

So while that link can be discerned with effort in The Return, I think it could have been done better. With those weaknesses out of the way…the link from the nuke to Sarah to Laura gives deeper credibility to Cooper’s journey back in time at the end of The Return to prevent Laura’s death.

I mentioned earlier that The Final Dossier slowly makes it clear that Tamara Preston has been in the town of Twin Peaks after the events of The Return. Reason one for this is just to follow up on the confrontation in the sheriff’s station. Which was definitely weird enough to require follow up research. Reason two is that, according to everyone in Twin Peaks and all relevant documentation, Laura Palmer never died but disappeared. Tamara found this out incidentally and is of course shitting bricks and trying to get Gordon or someone else with the Blue Rose task force to give a second opinion.

This could lead to another application of multimedia storytelling that the overall Twin Peaks body of work may have been more successful at: each fragment informing the others. The Final Dossier informs The Return with the nature of Sarah Palmer’s link to the crispy ghosts. The Return informs The Final Dossier with how exactly Laura’s murder was retroactively undone. Reading The Final Dossier also sheds a lot of light on Sarah Palmer’s behavior in The Return and introduces the possibility that she’s expressing a kind of “Mandela effect” freakiness.

Being a depressed alcoholic would have made just as much sense in the original continuity, but The Final Dossier states explicitly that she suffered from depression and alcoholism in the continuity in which Laura disappears, rather than dies. If she’s channeling some part of the emerging “new” timeline next door, it could inform the scenes in The Return in which she appears posessed: whatever she passed onto Laura which was then harvested by BOB (within her father) never could have made it to BOB. If BOB never killed Laura and extracted whatever it was he wanted from her, perhaps Laura is still carrying it around…or maybe it somehow stayed with Sarah. Which would explain why she sometimes turns into an interdimensional monster (?).

If you enjoy these kinds of Easter Egg hunts like I do, than I one-hundred percent recommend this book.

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